You and your friends were hanging out in the alley with a bottle of Grey Goose vodka. A police cruiser spotted you with the booze. As a result, you were all arrested for drinking in public ways. The police then patted you down and found drugs and a gun in your pocket. You were then arrested for drinking in public ways and for possession of contraband.

What is drinking in public ways? What can you do?

Depending on whether you were actually on the public way, you may be able to suppress the evidence from your arrest.

Most municipalities have a law prohibiting alcohol in the public way. Under the Chicago Municipal Code, it is unlawful to drink alcohol on any public way or in any motor vehicle on a public way in the city. It is also unlawful to transport or have alcohol in a motor vehicle upon any public way unless it’s in the original package with an unbroken seal. You may possess a partially consumed bottle of wine but only if you ate a meal at the restaurant where you got the wine, and the restaurant sealed the wine bottle for you in accordance with state law. A “public way” is defined as “any sidewalk, street, alley, highway or other public thoroughfare.” A violation can result in a $500.00 fine and/or six months in jail. Your fine may be increased to $1000 if your violation took place within 800 feet of a parade route. See Drinking on the Public Way.

In People v. Brown, the court held that a defendant was not on the public way when drinking beer in a gas station parking lot near a car parked next to a vacuum. As a result, the officer lacked probable cause to search the defendant and thus, the crack cocaine found during the search was suppressed.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. Did the police have probable cause to search you? If not, an attorney may petition the court to suppress the results of that search.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

About mdkeenan

A criminal and school law attorney with over 17 years of experience, I have successfully represented clients all over the Chicago area. My practice includes DUI, felony, criminal, misdemeanor, homicide, internet crime, retail theft, traffic offenses, cyberstalking, drug crimes, weapons violations, domestic battery and juvenile crime. I also represent families involving school cases. My clients come from all over the Chicago area including Skokie, Wilmette, Niles, Northbrook, Glenview, Evanston, Winnetka, Highland park, Northfield, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Mount Prospect. I am a member of the ACLU and the Illinois State Bar Association. I serve as a volunteer for First Defense Legal Aid. Se habla espanol.
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